Europe's wintry weather
February 6th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Shrinking polar ice caps may be to blame for frigid Europe

Europe's deadly cold snap may have a lot to do with shrinking amounts of ice in the Arctic, a recent study suggests.

Nearly 300 deaths have been reported across the continent, with snow accumulations not seen in five decades reported in some places. Warsaw, Poland, has seen 11 days of temperatures well below average, with a coldest reading of 35 below zero Fahrenheit.

As warmer air rises into the stratosphere over the Arctic, colder surface air moves south bringing storms to Europe.

Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, say the frigid, snowy European winter has its origins in a warm Arctic summer.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2011 was the fourth-warmest July on record. A warm summer in the Arctic cuts the amount of sea ice. NOAA reports that sea-ice levels last July were the lowest in three decades.

The effect is twofold, the Wegener scientists report.

First, less ice means less solar heat is reflected back into the atmosphere. Rather, it is absorbed into the darker ocean waters. Second, once that heat is in the ocean, the reduced ice cap allows the heat to more easily escape into the air just above the ocean's surface.

Because warmer air tends to rise, the moisture-laden air near the ocean's surface rises, creating instability in the atmosphere and changing air-pressure patterns, the scientists say.

One pattern, called the Arctic Oscillation, normally pushes warm Atlantic air over Europe and keeps Arctic air over the poles.

But in mid-January this year, the Arctic Oscillation abruptly changed, allowing the jet stream to plunge into Siberia and push cold and snowy weather over much of Europe.

Similar situations have emerged the past two years.

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Check out some more reports on what this winter's been like, both in the U.S. and around the world:

Frigid weather helps cost Romania's prime minister his job

What's behind America's warm winter?

soundoff (1,080 Responses)
  1. Modest Proposal

    Perhaps the trouble with our nation's response to this issue is that the complexity of modern scientific theory now outstrips the cognative ability of most of the public. In an age when technological and industrial advancement progresses at a geometric rate and the majority of publicly educated citizens are still learning 100 year old science, the public may no longer be able to make rational and informed decisions regarding such issues as environmental policy. There seems to me to be two possible solutions: 1) commit our nation to a pro-education cultural renaissance or declare democracy a failed experiement and bring on the technocrats. I prefer the later, but if we don't collectively make that decision soon it may be too late to salvage what was once great about this nation.

    February 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Helpme

    This is the thing that gets me about the Ozone Hole, Global warming, climate change debate. Which side of this debate is resistant to agreeing on a sure fire method of collecting good and enough data- that it is meaningful to indicate something? Who agrues the facts -who dismisses the facts? I am an engineer, and when i have something to prove, i give everyone every opportunity to debunk my findings. and welcome the scrutiny – why? because standing the test of real scrutiny legitimizes the theory- thnk about it.

    February 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sailrick

    Sometimes, even the deniers have to tell the truth.

    From Desmogblog

    "The Global Climate Coalition, an industry-funded group that spent years vehemently contesting any evidence linking anthropogenic activity to climate change, found itself in the uncomfortable position of rejecting its own experts’ recommendations when they reached the inevitable conclusion that the contribution of manmade greenhouse gas emissions to climate change could not be refuted."

    "That’s right: even the scientists that these companies had consistently trotted out to discredit the findings of the IPCC could no longer deny the truth when faced with the hard facts. They acknowledged as much in an internal report released in 1995 in which they stated unequivocably that:"

    'The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.'

    "When confronted with this frank assessment, the leadership of the Global Climate Coalition did the only reasonable thing: drop the offending passages and expunge the report’s existence from the public record."

    February 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sailrick

    The Wall St Journal just put out a completely false amatuerish skeptic article signed by 16 so called "skeptic scientists". Well only two of them have ever actually published any peer reviewed climate science, and these are long discredited crank skeptic scientists.

    "The Wall Street 16 – Hapless Happer Leads Clueless Geriatrics in WSJ Fiasco"
    [at Climate Crock of the Week]

    "The Latest Denialist Plea for Climate Change Inaction "
    "If we boil down this op-ed to its basics, we're left with a letter signed by only two scientists with peer-reviewed climate research publications in the past three decades, which exhibits a serious lack of understanding of basic climate concepts, and which simply regurgitates a Gish Gallop of long-worn climate myths"
    [Skeptical Science]

    Panic Attack: Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal Finds 16 Scientists to Push Pollutocrat Agenda With Long-Debunked Climate Lies
    [Climate Progress]

    Yet this same WSJ refused to print a letter signed by 255 members of the National Academy of Science, the pre-eminent U.S. science organization.

    That's how Murdock operates. It's how Fox operates.

    One of FOX's favorite "climate change experts" is Steve Milloy, a NON SCIENTIST, who is actually a paid lobbyist for fossil fuel interests, and who runs the very aptly named Junk Science blog, where he further misinforms the public. Milloy has also served in this capacity to deny the science showing tobacco to be harmful, and was paid by Big Tobacco also.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sailrick

    Yeah, like Glenn Beck would know the truth if it ran him over.

    9 out of 10 skeptic scientists are linked to ExxonMobil

    "The Carbon Brief (TCB) has a nice analysis on the not-very-startling coincidence that at least nine of the top 10 'skeptical' 'scientists' who are publishing on climate change have direct links to Exxon. ........The news, for the skeptics as for the climate, turns out to be all bad."

    "In a second installment, TCB also took a closer look at both the quality and content of the purported "900+" science papers identified by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) as somehow skeptical of the science of climate change. The news, for the skeptics as for the climate, turns out to be all bad."

    "Only a small number of the papers actually appeared in reputable publications (eg., 34 in Nature, 33 in Science), and many of those either don’t address the climate question directly or do NOT come to the conclusion that the GWPF attributes"

    February 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sailrick

    "The target audience of denialism is the lay audience, not scientists. It’s made up to look like science, but it’s PR."
    David Archer

    But the GOP can't get enough fake science.

    They prefer fake articles like the one recently in the Wall St. Journal, which is notorious for printing utter nonsense from the usual suspects in the denial cult of fossil fuel industry funded fake skeptic scientists.

    Funny how the WSJ turned down a letter that 255 members of the National Academy of Science asked them to publish, yet they print this pile of garbage without fact checking anything.

    The Murdock media empire spreads disinformation on climate change worldwide, including in the WSJ.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sailrick

    Over 100 professional science organizations, of international and national standing, have issued statements as to the validity of AGW and that we must act immediately. This includes every national academy of science in the world. The U.S. National Academy of Science has issued four such statements.

    The prestigious science journal, Nature, has openly criticized the GOP for it's anti science stance, especially on climate change.

    Only two professional science organizations in the world deny the science of climate change. And these two are the only ones most Republican politicians agree with.

    American Association of Petroleum Geologists

    Canadian Associations of Petroleum Geologists

    The GOP is bought and sold by the fossil fuel industry.

    The only party in the world that rejects science of global warming.
    The science free zone party.

    Vote Out the deniers. We can't afford to waste time with these fools

    February 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sailrick

    The tobacco industry set the precedent and the method for raising doubts about the scientific evidence, in order to delay or stop effective legislation to protect peoples health. What they all learned from big Tobacco, was that you don't have to disprove the science. All that is necessary is to make claims that the science isn't 100% certain. (never mind that nothing in science is ever 100% certain)
    They have been imitated by all those other industries, including today's fossil fuel industry and their climate change denial PR.

    Relevant industries have opposed all sorts of environmental protection. Whether its pollutants that cause acid rain, lead in gasoline that caused brain and neurological damage to children, CFCs that were damaging the protective ozone layer, cancer causing asbestos or formaldahyde, deforestation, health dangers of tobacco or CO2 that causes global warming, big industry has spend millions of dollars in attempts stop legislation designed to protect the public's health and that of the environment, and muddying the scientific discussion of these issues.

    Why do people think it is any different in the case of global warming?

    Virtually every major science organization in the world is telling you that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is real.

    And the GOP is telling you what the oil companies want you to believe.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sailrick

    If you're interested in what real honest to goodness scientific skeptics have to say, read this from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The author is Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories

    "Denialists have attempted to call the science into question by writing articles that include fabricated data. They’ve improperly graphed data using tricks to hide evidence that contradicts their beliefs. They chronically misrepresent the careful published work of scientists, distorting all logic and meaning in an organized misinformation campaign. To an uncritical media and gullible non-scientists, this ongoing conflict has had the intended effect: it gives the appearance of a scientific controversy and seems to contradict climate researchers who have stated that the scientific debate over the reality of human-caused climate change is over (statements that have been distorted by denialists to imply the ridiculous claim that in all respects the science is settled)."

    From my own notes from the past four years, I can show hundreds of examples of what Mark is talking about

    February 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sailrick

    The global warming is a hoax believers don't understand the difference between informed opinion, uninformed opinion, misinformed opinion and totally ignorant opinions.
    (from comments posted by LeeAnnG at Grist)

    If anyone out there wants to learn something about climate change science, I recommend Skeptical Science website. It's the best place for layman and other non specialists to get a grasp of the science involved.

    They have the scientific explanation why all 171 skeptic arguments are false.
    They do this at 2-3 levels of complexity from basic to advanced, to accomodate people with different levels of science background

    February 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sailrick

    "The global warming is a hoax believers don't understand the difference between informed opinion, uninformed opinion, misinformed opinion and totally ignorant opinions."
    (from comments posted by LeeAnnG at

    "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always
    has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
    Isaac Azimov

    February 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sailrick

    Deniers will believe dozens of things about climate change, that are false, disproven and studied to death. And then they accuse the other side of having a belief, calling it names like AGW religion.

    "As commenter Houston so elegantly put it in a response on one of my posts, evidence leads to consensus. Scientists like nothing more than to disprove established theories and upset the status quo. The idea that scientists may be in possession of knowledge that would bring about the biggest scientific upset of recent history, and yet would simply sit on their hands because of peer pressure or grant funding is, quite frankly, ludicrous beyond belief to anyone who knows anything about the scientific establishment."
    Sami Grover at Treehugger

    February 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sailrick

    The GOP Congress has been carrying out a witch hunt against climate scientists, grilling them, with ill informed comments, and questions, accusing them of faking the science, etc.

    They keep bringing up the fake scandal called climategate, which seven different investigations have shown to be about nothing. All seven investigations found no wrong doing, no faking the science. There were six investigations done, before denier fanatic Sen. Inhofe demanded that the Inspector General do another one. It had the same result.

    And yet these idiots keep up their witch hunt.

    You can read all about the Fake scandal of climategategate, at Skeptical Science, Open Mind, Real Climate, Climate Sight, Deep Climate and several others.

    What they are doing is nothing short of criminal.'
    Some day they will be remembered for genocide on a global scale and ecocide.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sailrick

    As soon as you see a so called skeptic mention Al Gore, you know they have no clue what they are talkiing aout.

    Al Gore has nothing to do with it.

    None of the climate scientists work for Al Gore or with Al Gore. None of them are paid by the IPCC either.

    Climate science is extremely complicated and involves about a dozen or more areas of science specialization. For the average person to think they are in a position to question the science agreed on by virtually every major science organization in the world, is just STUPID.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sailrick

    A new study in Nature Geoscience
    "Anthropogenic and natural warming inferred from changes in Earth’s energy balance"

    "Our results show that it is extremely likely that at least 74% of the observed warming since 1950 was caused by radiative forcings, and less than 26% by unforced internal variability. Of the forced signal during that particular period, 102% (90-116%) is due to anthropogenic and 1% (-10 to 13%) due to natural forcing..... The combination of those results with attribution studies based on optimal fingerprinting, with independent constraints on the magnitude of climate feedbacks, with process understanding, as well as palaeoclimate evidence leads to an even higher confidence about human influence dominating the observed temperature increase since pre-industrial times"

    Absent the increasing GHGs, we probably would have cooled, since

    1.We’ve had a couple of big volcanoes.

    2.We’re just coming off "the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century."

    3.The underlying long-term trend had been cooling (see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, "seminal" study finds).

    note: volcanoes cool the planet, because of the aerosols they emit into the atmosphere.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
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